Katharine Wibell, author of the Incarn Saga, has graciously agreed to be interviewed this month! Even more graciously, she agreed to give us some spoilers for her novel, Issaura’s Claws. This interview represents a newfound focus on worldbuilding and especially the infrastructure underlying fictional societies.
Katharine, the blurb for Issaura’s Claws mentions Raiders have begun attacking the Kingdom of Elysia from across the sea. Could you share with us what caused our villains to suddenly become expansionist?
Short version without spoilers: Unfortunately, just as today, the craving to establish an empire by conquering another country is fueled by a hunger for power, wealth, and control of another people’s land and resources.
Long Version with Spoilers in the answer: The Raiders are the name associated with the enemy in Issaura’s Claws. They sail their long ships across the ocean to wage war on the kingdom of Elysia. At the very end of the book, both the reader and Lluava, the main character, finally discover the motives behind the vicious marauders’ attacks. The Raiders’ empire was the origin of the human population who currently rule Elysia. Several hundred years earlier, a navel captain, Landon Mandrun, was sent on a mission to conquer new lands for the empire. Arriving on the shores of Elysia, he broke contact with his homeland and named himself king of this “new world”. When he and his troops failed to return home, the empire believed both ships and men were lost. A few years before the attacks in Issaura’s Claws begin, the Raiders discover the truth—there is a land across the ocean and Landon Mandrun cheated them out of their ‘rightful’ claim. The empire sails in full force toward Elysia to retrieve what they believe is their land.
Oooh. It reminds me a bit of the Spanish conquest of the Americas — exciting times! Imperialism changed the socio-political structures of Earth. What kind of impact do you think the expansion of the military will have on the culture of Elysia?
Unfortunately, as we have learned from history, when war touches so many people, there are devastating results even if the country/kingdom wins. Whether lives lost, horrors seen or committed, there are huge emotional repercussions. In Elysia, one person from every household is drafted. This military expansion will result in a generation or more that will deal with PTSD issues.
The following three books in the series, The Incarn Saga, touch on the mental and emotional effect the war has on the main characters. If Elysia wins, those who survive will need to re-learn how to interact with others in a more day-to-day fashion. Some soldiers might continue to serve in the military. Others will attempt to rid themselves of the nightmare of war. Regardless, nobody will come out unscathed. Even if they win and thus survive, there will be a struggle to cope with what was lost—innocence.
From what I understand, the military of Elysia makes it a point to pair mundane humans with Theriomorphs who can shift between human and animal forms. You mentioned in the blurb that there is legal equality in Elysia. What happened to make the government choose integration over segregated units?
The point of military integration between races was to help eradicate the distrust and hatred between the two peoples of Elysia. The whole scenario is akin to the pre-civil rights movement in America. Humans and Theriomorphs are equal by the letter of the law but not in the eyes or actions of the races. If the military maintained segregated units, there would always be the possibility for hate crimes between them as well as the risk that the races would not come to one another’s aid. If that occurred during a major war, Elysia might not be strong enough to fend off an enemy. The military hopes, by pairing each human with a Theriomorph, the partners will be able to overcome this precontrived distrust and work together. With a partner, the soldiers will always have someone to cover their blind spots and be there for each other when assistance is needed.
The High Council’s motives may be different. Biracial military partners insure a human is available to monitor his Theriomorph partner. In this manner, the military can utilize the strengths and abilities of the Theriomorphs as well as ease the ruling humans’ distrustful minds.
The goddess Issaura seems very important to the kingdom of Elysia. It reminds me a little of the relationship between Athens and Athena in Greece. Are the other gods also featured in the mythos of Issaura’s Claws? What about other races?
That was a good observation. Issaura is very much inspired by the goddesses Athena and Artemis. Readers might discern other Greco-Roman and Nordic mythology influences as the series progresses.
In the Theriomorph religion, Issaura is one of twelve gods—specifically Goddess of War. In the first book, the emphasis is on her, although as the series progresses, the reader will learn about the other gods, especially those whose names help title the books. For instance, the second book, Ullr’s Fangs, references the God of War; Ullr is a strong foil for Issaura’s character. Each god or goddess has special attributes and stories that are associated with them and incorporated into the overarching plot of the series. The Theriomorph pantheon is in stark contrast with the monotheistic belief of humans. This difference creates yet another difficulty in unifying both races as one Elysian people.
You will learn about one other race in the Incarn Saga—the Nomads. Although human, they have their own polytheistic beliefs that mirror the Theriomorphs in many ways yet differ in others.
Fascinating! It seems like theology has a big impact on the mythos of the Incarn Saga. More narrowly, what detail of the worldbuilding would you say had the biggest impact on how the story turned out?
I wanted to take an obscure character and turn her into a force to be used for good or evil. In order to do that, I had to create a variety of interior prejudices and situations between the peoples of Elysia before my main character, Lluava, could become what sort of person I had envisioned.
Lluava is a seventeen-year-old Theriomorph from a small fishing village in the southern part of the kingdom. Although raised in the polytheistic belief, after her father died, she loses faith in all religions. Lluava is a young female in a patriarchal society who is not of the ruling race. She is a country girl and has little knowledge of the politics that govern the kingdom. Yet her fierce drive to protect her family and her strong dual form—a white tigress—spurs her on to the adventures recounted in the Incarn Saga. So to answer your question, I’d say trying to establish Lluava’s origin and her motivation actually helped me flesh out this multifaceted kingdom and culture with all its issues and problems.
Thanks so much for sharing those details with us, Katharine! I know it can’t have been easy to part with such spoiler-y information, but it was wonderful to hear about the world you’ve created.
About Katharine Wibell
In college, Katharine Wibell double-majored in Fine Arts and Psychology, with an emphasis on animal behavior. While living in Georgia, she was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, but later transitioned to the life of a full-time indie artist in New Orleans. Now, she is a full-time author and reverse glass painter.
Issaura’s Claws is the first book in the Incarn Saga, a young adult fantasy series inspired by ancient myths. It’s filled with fast-paced action and adventure, and enriched by an understanding of animal behavior that defines the shape-shifting Theriomorphs.
According to legend, when the world was young, the goddess Issaura appeared among men. Those who treated her with kindness received the gift of the gods—the ability to transform into an animal form. This was a great honor but one that separated this race from other humans. Before Issaura departed the mortal realm, she promised to return if her people were ever at the point of destruction.
Now a threat is rising from a land across the mists of the ocean, a threat that will push this race to the brink of extinction. Responding to the call to war, seventeen-year-old Lluava heads off to find her destiny, one that will carve her name in history.
Katharine’s debut novel, Issaura’s Claws, is available now on Amazon. The sequel, Ullr’s Fangs, is due to be published in 2017.